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Old 08-01-2022, 10:43 AM   #1
Spirit of Mist
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Tol Eressea
Posts: 3,338
Mithadan is a guest at the Prancing Pony.Mithadan is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
The Mewlips By Encaitare First Posted February 6, 2005

The Mewlips
By Encaitare
First Posted February 6, 2005

I was twenty-one at the time, having just left my childhood and at the beginning of my tweenage years. I had moved from my home of Brandy Hall and had arrived at my Uncle Bilbo’s house barely a fortnight before. The pain of my parents’ unfortunate and premature demise was by then but a memory – although it would always hurt, I was no longer troubled by their absence.

Bilbo was a queer sort of fellow, especially as an adoptive father, although his jovial and kindly manner made up for his quirks. He was sniffed at and looked down upon by many of the elder, stricter members of the town, but was a hero to the children. For he had gone on a great journey and had adventures (something quite unheard of among the ordinary hobbit), and there were marvelous rumors of treasure-stores hidden in the secret places of Bag End. Whether these were true or not I had yet to find out, but the way Bilbo’s eyes twinkled with mischief whenever he heard of them led me to believe that they were highly exaggerated, and he simply enjoyed the ridiculous nonsense his neighbors whispered as they gossiped over their fences.

He was a learned hobbit and a keeper of a great many books, which were filled with poems and tales and adventure-stories. One dull afternoon after only two weeks in my uncle’s home, when the rain was pounding down from the deep grey sky, I busied myself in flipping through a few of these books simply for lack of anything better to do. I skimmed a page here and there, rarely stopping to read thoroughly. Most of the works contained within the books seemed quite boring to me, little songs and children’s tales providing small interest for me. But then something caught my eye as I turned the next page. A leaf of paper fell out of the book into my lap. I picked it up and read:

The Mewlips.

Such was the title, boldly written across the top of the paper with a picture of crows in what appeared to be a swamp. The bottom of the page was also accompanied by a picture: a ruined structure surrounded by haunted faces and dead trees, the sad limbs of which listed down into the water at their roots. This seemed to be a different sort of poem, not a bedtime-story for children or a pub song. Eagerly, I read the spidery words:

The Shadows where the Mewlips dwell
Are dark and wet as ink,
And slow and softly rings their bell,
As in the slime you sink.

You sink into the slime, who dare
To knock upon their door,
While down the grinning gargoyles stare
And noisome waters pour.

Beside the rotting river-strand
The drooping willows weep,
And gloomily the gorcrows stand
Croaking in their sleep.

Over the Merlock Mountains a long and weary way,
In a mouldy valley where the trees are grey,
By a dark pool’s borders without wind or tide,
Moonless and sunless, the Mewlips hide.

The cellars where the Mewlips sit
Are deep and dank and cold
With single sickly candle lit;
And there they count their gold.

Their walls are wet, their ceilings drip;
Their feet upon the floor
Go softly with a squish-flap-flip,
As they sidle to the door.

They peep out slyly; through a crack
Their feeling fingers creep,
And when they’ve finished, in a sack
Your bones they take to keep.

Beyond the Merlock Mountains, a long and lonely road,
Through the spider-shadows and the marsh of Tode,
And through the wood of hanging trees and gallows-weed,
You go to find the Mewlips - and the Mewlips feed.

I finished reading the chilling poem, and a shiver ran down my spine despite the crackling fire across the room. Now this was certainly a change from all that I was used to! Exactly what sort of creatures were these ‘Mewlips,’ and what were they doing tucked into a book here in the safety of the Shire? Late that evening when supper was over and the dishes washed, I asked my uncle the same questions.

He out down his pipe and took the poem from me, skimming the page. “Ah, yes, the Mewlips,” he said. “This poem has been all but forgotten here in Hobbiton, since we’ve all grown so accustomed to the peace and quiet here – most of us, anyway,” he chuckled. “Some of the oldest gaffers will pluck these little creatures out of midair to make noisy lads and lasses behave: ‘You’d best do as you’re told; the Mewlips love to eat up naughty little children,’ and that sort of thing.”

“How unpleasant,” I said, glad that I had never been given such a warning.

Bilbo nodded. “Yes, quite.”

I thought about what I had read. Perhaps the creatures and their home were just a tale devised to frighten and thrill. “These... Mewlips... they’re not real, are they?”

My uncle leaned back in his chair, folding his hands in his lap. “There certainly are no Mewlips in the Shire today,” he said decidedly unhelpfully. “But, then, there wouldn’t be. They lived, or live, across the mountains, of course.”

“Uncle Bilbo,” I said, irked by his enigmatic reply, “what I mean is, did – or do – these things exist, or did some hobbit just make them up for the sake of telling scary stories? I’ve looked at your maps, and I don’t recall any Merlock Mountains.”

“Oh, they exist, I’m sure. When our ancestors came across the Misty Mountains, they must have had an encounter of some kind with them.”

That name I recognized. “You were there, weren’t you, Uncle? The Misty Mountains? You didn’t see anything like these creatures, did you?”

Bilbo laughed. “My boy, I fought off spiders and goblins and wolves, but not a single Mewlip. What an adventure that would have been, though!” He grinned merrily, no doubt fancying himself doing battle with all sorts of nasty slinking creatures in the dark. It was a long while before he spoke again.

“Where did you find this?” he asked me at last. I brought him the book of children’s tales, and he thumbed through the pages thoughtfully. “You know, I’ve been meaning to put this in my book as well; I’d nearly forgotten all about it. I suppose that can be done another day, though.” He placed the poem back in the book and closed it, laying it on a table next to his chair.

“Perhaps you ought to be getting to bed, Frodo.” I tried not to make my displeasure obvious, but the shrewd hobbit noticed it anyway. “Don’t get yourself in a fuss; I intend to turn in soon myself. I think I shall just sit by the fire a bit longer.” He closed his eyes as I rose and began to leave the room. I paused at the door, though, and turned to look back at him.

“You’d best do as you’re told,” he said softly. “The Mewlips love to eat up disobedient nephews.”
Beleriand, Beleriand,
the borders of the Elven-land.
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