1. Vod and the Elvenking
There was a Woodman named Vod, who lived with his wife and child under the eaves of the Great Forest. One night it happened that all the firewood had been used; so Vod must go out to collect more. Although he knew better than to cut any living tree, and only picked up deadwood from the ground, he was still uneasy, for he knew that the Great Forest was the realm of the Elves, and to encounter the Elvenking was perilous indeed.Despite his caution, he was accosted by the Elvish hunt; he heard the baying of hounds and the braying of horns, a voice cried out "Enedh en vên!"1, and suddenly the tall Elvenking, mounted on a white horse, plunged down out of the clouds before him. "What dost thou in my woods, child of Men?" asked the Elvenking, his eyes flashing terribly. "My lord," replied Vod, "I have no wood for the fire, and came out to collect some, that my wife and child might not suffer from the cold". "What is that to the Ever-living?" scoffed the Elvenking. "Yet thou seemest strong, for a mortal; here, catch hold of this chain, and we shall see which of us can pull the harder".
Vod courageously took the end of the heavy chain thrown to him, and the Elvenking soared back up into the clouds on his horse. Fortunately, there happened to be a sturdy oak right by the place; Vod quickly wrapped the chain around it. The hounds howled, the horses neighed, and the Elvish hunters cried out; the Elvenking could be heard swearing, "Were thou heavier than lead, child of Men, still thou shouldst join me in the clouds!" The oak crackled to its roots, and the very trunk seemed to twist round; Vod's heart nearly failed him, but the tree held, and the tugging of the Elvenking was in vain.
The Elvenking called out to Vod: "Well pulled! Many's the Man I have made mine; thou art the first who's held out against me. Thou shalt have thy due!" The Elvish hunt swept away, the huntsmen calling out to the hounds, "Vol! Vol!"2. Vod started to slink away, not even daring to pick up the wood that he had gathered, but was stopped when a great stag, dead with an arrow in its heart, dropped out of the clouds at his very feet. The Elvenking followed; he leapt off his horse, and began to cut up the game. "Thou shalt have some blood, and a hindquarter besides!" called out the Elvenking. "My lord", replied Vod, "your servant has neither pot nor pail". "What is that to the Ever-living" said the Elvenking; "yet pull off thy boot, child of Men". Vod did so, and the Elvenking filled it with the blood of the stag.
The Elvenking gave the boot and the hindquarter to Vod, and told him, "Now also take up the wood, and return to thy wife and child, with blood and flesh, and something with which to cook them. Yet do not think to test me a second time", he warned, his eyes again flashing terribly; "thou hast prevailed today, and mayst leave with neither scot nor scathe, but it need not be so tomorrow!"
Vod louted low, and began to walk back to his cottage. His load seemed light enough at first, but gradually grew heavier and heavier, until he scarce had strength to carry it. Bent double and covered with sweat, he at last staggered through the door of his cottage and put down his burdens, only to discover the reason for their weight: the boot was now filled with gold, and the hindquarter had changed into a leather pouch filled with silver!
Vod was now wealthy; he lived long and his descendants were many, dwelling under the eaves of the Great Forest to this very day. But never again did he go wood-gathering in the Great Forest; he took the words of the Elvenking to heart, and judged it wise not to test his forbearance a second time.1It was a article of faith amongst the Woodmen that the hunting elves would cry, "Enedh en vên!" ("Middle of the way!") as they rode. A Man who, upon hearing this cry, threw himself face down in the middle of the road would feel the trampling of the feet of the hounds, but would take no other harm; to remain standing, however, put one at risk of coming to the attention of the Elvenking.
2I couldn't find a Sindarin word with the sense that I wanted, so I just made one up. It need not be taken seriously.