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'Neath Anor, Ithil, and Gil
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Tribulation Broadloam is moon-touched, a child born with an especially round face and body and eyes, with especially stubby fingers, an especially large tongue, and a mind that doesn’t learn many things as easily as the minds of most Hobbit children. Yet she is clever in her way. She watches the animals given to the care of her family and can tell when one is uncomfortable or off its feed; she has learned to bake biscuits; she understands that things should be kept as clean and tidy as possible.

And she understands that the most important things there are in the world in which she lives are love and acceptance.

She recognizes she’s different from other Hobbit children, although she perhaps couldn’t tell you exactly how that’s true. Although if she were to try to explain what she sees as different between herself and, say, the youngest of the Boffin children, it’s unlikely most folk would understand her, for it’s difficult for her to speak clearly.

Her family has never been particularly respectable, for the menfolk of the Broadloam clan for centuries have been devoted to “salvaging”; and not only is their property covered with potentially useful objects such as short lengths of chain, chipped basins, and barrows with missing wheels, but it is likely that a good number of those items used by the family were obtained perhaps before those who formerly laid claim to them were quite ready to give them up.

There are a few objects that Tribbals herself lays claim to, including a scholar’s slate with a broken corner. The wooden frame that used to protect the corners of this slate, the one with FB gracefully carved into it, was removed by her grandfather, perhaps to make it harder to prove that the FB who used to practice his letters and numbers and later learned to write words and sentences and figure on its surface had any claim to it. Gaffer Gerdo had, after all, taken it from a smial in the village of Whitfurrow that the owners weren’t going to return to, for they’d drowned while visiting kin in Buckland. Nor was the lad who used to own it likely to return for it, for after his parents’ deaths his cousins wouldn't let him return to the smial and face the memories there. After all, there wasn’t exactly a dearth of such items in Brandy Hall.

So now it is claimed by Tribbals, and she will sit with it by the hour, carefully inscribing painstakingly matching circles across it, always twelve per line, always fifteen lines to fill the surface; then, when she’s finished she will apply the scrap of flannel she uses to wipe away the white leavings of the chalk pencil and begin again, well pleased because she also can write, just as FB could do.

A.N. This is based on the activities of three sometime clients of mine, one of whom during visits to the office will take possession of a particular legal pad and inscribe just this pattern of small hearts, one who watches me write on the computer while she writes lines of digits into a spiral notebook, one who gathers copies of his pastor’s sermons and types each letter into his computer, all well pleased to think of themselves as able to write.


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