12. Day-Bright and Night-Dark
A tale for Hobits and Elves
Day-Bright and Night-Dark
The Tale of the Fairy Wife
Long ago, before ever the Hobbits moved West across the Brandywine, a widow of the Took family lived with her little son Isumbar at the very edge of Hobbit country, right up against the Forest. They lived in the smallest, meanest, poorest hole.
One winter evening, they heard a knock on the door.
"Who can that be?" asked Mistress Took. She peeped through the spy-hole and saw there a woman of the Big People, drooping and leaning on the door frame.
Though she was astonished to see such a person, she opened the door to let her in.
"This is not a night to leave any person to face the winter snows," she said.
The woman staggered in. She was small for one of the Big Folk; still her head nigh touched the ceiling. She fell before the fire in a swoon.
Mistress Took bent over her unexpected guest. "Hasten, Isumbar. Go to the healer and bring her here," she said.
So Isumbar bundled himself in his warmest cloak and hurried off to the healer's hole. The healer was not best pleased to be dragged from her Fore-Yule preparations, but she assembled her healer's kit and returned with Isumbar.
When they arrived at the small hole, they found Mistress Took had made the poor woman as comfortable as possible before the hearth, for the Hobbit-bed was by far too small. His mother and the healer put him to work bringing in firewood but then banished him to his pallet. He curled up and tried to sleep. The cries of the strange woman troubled his dreams until morning.
He awoke to a different kind of crying. The woman lay in shallow sleep on the floor; the healer had taken his mother's bed, while Mistress Took dozed in her chair by the fire. On either side of the woman, tucked under her arms were two tiny babes.
Isumbar tiptoed closer. His mother roused and signaled him to silence. He gazed down at the new little ones. One had golden down upon her head, as yellow as her mother's. She opened bright blue eyes at him. Her sister's hair was black, and her eyes were gray as cloud.
The mother stirred, and Mistress Took went immediately to her side.
Later that day, another knock came at the door. Outside stood an elf-man, dark-haired and gray-eyed.
"My wife," he said. "Have you seen her?"
He stooped a little to enter the hole, but fell to his knees beside the woman. He gathered her and the little ones in his arms.
"I am in your debt. The storm parted us, and I have searched for her with little hope until now."
"I have done but what was needed," replied Mistress Took.
The woman rested with Isumbar and his mother. The elf-man visited daily until she was stronger.
When she was ready to leave, she looked at little Isumbar. "When he is grown, he will be worthy of the daughter of the Lord of the Elves."
The elf-man and his wife and babes disappeared into the Forest. A few days later, Mistress Took found a little woven fern basket on her doorstep. Within it lay two elf-beryls, one as blue as the sky, as blue as the eyes of the golden-haired babe, the other silver-gray as rain.
She put aside the blue gem, and with the pale gem set about restoring her prosperity.
Mistress Took and her son worked hard, but soon their fortunes had improved. They moved to a larger, more comfortable hole. Mistress Took increased her properties, and became a person of substance and influence.
Her son grew to be an industrious, clever lad. When he had leisure, though, Isumbar wandered in the fringes of the Forest and practiced music on his pipes.
While playing songs in a glade of the wood one day, he met two little girls. The taller one had hair dark as shadow; the other's glowed like sunshine. They told him their elvish names, but said, "You may call us Night-Dark and Day-Bright," for he did not speak their elvish tongue.
When his mother could spare him from work, he went straight to the Forest to meet his playmates. They rambled together among the trees; Isumbar would play upon his pipes while Day-Bright sang and Night-Dark whirled about and danced. He met again the elf-man and the woman of the Big People, and learned somewhat of their language.
As the years passed, Isumbar grew taller; in fact he grew to be the tallest hobbit for miles around, and must needs duck his head at the front door. His elf-maid friends grew as well, though more slowly. Still, both soon o'er-topped him, Day-Bright by a little and Night-Dark by a great deal.
Mistress Took saw how her son had grown to be a promising young Hobbit. The families with daughters of an age for marriage showed Isumbar special attention. However, Mistress Took remembered the words of the wife of the Elf-man, and the blue elf-beryl. She looked over the Hobbit-girls from far and near, and found none to be good enough for her son.
As for Isumbar, he had no thoughts yet of marriage. He preferred to visit his elf-friends in the forest rather than go to parties with his mother. He could spare less time than he wished, for his work kept him from the woods, but he went there straight-away when his chores were done.
One day, as they rambled in the woods, a great grey wolf came creeping through the trees. Isumbar stood between the young women and the beast, but his bravery was for naught. The wolf crawled forward on his belly, and showed them his throat. Night-Dark dashed from behind Isumbar and dropped to her knees beside the wolf.
"Look, here is an ornament attached to his neck!" she cried. She petted the wolf without fear, and he butted his head against her. Sure enough, there was a tiny lock embedded in the skin of his throat.
By this, they knew that some mystery or even magic was attached to the beast, so they took to calling him the Enchanted Prince. He became their playmate, but took care to disappear when others came near. Night-Dark became his especial friend, and learned to communicate with him somewhat.
She found that he was indeed an ensorcelled elven-youth. He had fallen afoul of the King of the Goblins, who, instead of killing him, had flung the wolf-skin over him and locked it shut at his throat. "You shall remain a wolf until you die, for the key is always by my hand," said the Goblin King, and laughing he drove the wolf out to be hunted and feared by all.
The three friends consulted together on how to reverse the spell on their dear wolf. They decided that the best way was the most direct way, so they set out for the Goblin King's caverns. When they drew near the mountains where the goblins lived, they sent the wolf to wait in the forest nearby.
"If the goblins see you, they will surely kill you," said Night-Dark. "Stay out of sight until we return."
Isumbar, Day-Bright and Night-Dark stepped boldly up to the front door of the caverns. The goblin soldiers laughed and jeered as they approached.
"We are wandering minstrels," said Isumbar. "We seek only to earn our way through the world with music and dance."
The goblin soldiers brought them before the king. "Let them entertain us. Sing and dance for us, puny elves," he said.
And so they sang and danced. At first they played happy dance tunes, while all the goblins crowded into the hall. When the hall was filled, the music changed.
Isumbar piped a tune of sleep. Day-Bright sang a song of sleep. Night-Dark danced a dance of sleep. Her dusky hair floated about her, the sleepy shadows reaching all around.
The Goblin King stood up. As he stepped toward her, he crumpled to the floor. All his soldiers and retainers fell to the ground, fast asleep as well.
While Isumbar continued piping and Day-Bright singing, ever softer, Night-Dark took the great iron ring of keys from his belt. The three friends moved quietly out of the hall of the Goblin King. They ran down the tunnel and out of the mountain into the night.
The wolf waited there for them. Already, they heard the goblin soldiers stirring behind them, and the Goblin King shouting after them, "Sieze them! Bring them back and throw them in the deepest caverns!"
They ran into the forest, not stopping to try the keys they'd stolen. Now one, now another rode on the back of the wolf. Finally, as day was breaking, the cries and clatter of the goblin soldiers fell behind. They hurried on until they could go no farther. As soon as they stopped, Night-Dark hunted through the keys on the iron ring, until she found the tiniest one. With shaking hands, she turned it in the lock at the throat of the wolf.
The lock opened and the wolf-skin fell away. A tall elf-youth stood before them. He embraced each one, and kissed Night-Dark on the mouth. Then they all turned toward their home, bringing the former wolf with them.
When they had met the Enchanted Prince, Day-Bright and Night-Dark's parents rejoiced that Night-Dark had found her true love. They saw also that Isumbar and Day-Bright had eyes only for each other.
"But first," they said, "you must gain the consent of Mistress Took."
So Isumbar and Day-Bright made their way to the Hobbit Holes. Mistress Took looked with favor on her son's choice, but she said, "How can I be sure she is a real elf? The woman foretold my son would marry the daughter of the Lord of the Elves. If she is a real elf, she can run upon the snow."
When winter snows fell, Day-Bright sprang out upon it and ran to and fro. Mistress Took clapped her hands for delight and immediately gave her approval. The shining elf-stone she hung about Day-Bright's neck.
So Day-Bright married Isumbar and her sister Night-Dark married the Enchanted Prince. Isumbar and Day-Bright had many children, and grew old together, for Day-Bright had chosen the fate of her mother's kindred when she gave her heart to Isumbar. As for Night-Dark, she chose the path of her father and the Elves, though she mourned her sister when she received the Gift of Men.
Even now, they say, she and her daughters watch over her sister's children from the eaves of the woods.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.