This is the first story about one of the true legends from Brockenborings, the fabulous sheep dog Ruff! There are many stories about Ruff, and they are all very popular with the children up north. This is because Ruff is likely the most amazing dog ever to have wandered the Greenfields.
This is the story about how Ruff came to be in this world. First, though, there are a few things you should know about Brockenborings.
As you likely know, there is much in the way of sheep up there, since many hobbits keep them as livestock. They wander freely around the Greenfields, enjoy the fair weather and eat the sweet grass (the sheep that is, not the hobbits). In return, the sheep offer soft, warm wool and juicy, tender pieces of lamb and mutton.
However, as it always was, there is an air of danger around the Greenfields. All hobbit children are told to be careful there, because of roaming wild animals like bears and wolves. Why, from time to time, they say even a stray goblin or two find their way into the fields.
So the locals keep sheep dogs. Strong and energetic they are, with coats coloured black, white and red… and they guard the sheep from danger. But they are also playful, and the local children love running around the fields with them. Merry chases fill the day, accompanied by a joyous chorus of laughter and barking.
Story no 1: The Amazing Sheepdog
One time in years past, the two strongest sheep dogs in Brockenborings met, mated and had a litter of seven pups. Six of the pups resembled their parents, being healthy and fair, and they were lively and playful.
The seventh pup, though, was weak and frail. When his brothers and sisters ate all the food and drank all the milk, he found himself pushed away. Alone and abandoned, he soon withered and fell ill. As animals do, he found himself a quiet corner to be alone, and lay down to die.
As he lay there whimpering with his eyes closed, a little hobbit lass walked by. She noticed the sickly pup. Kneeling before him, she gently patted his head and gave him a hug. The pup, sensing care for the first time, opened his eyes. He let out a weak “Ruff” and licked the hobbit lass’ cheek.
Well, I guess you know what happened next.
Her heart melted, she brought the pup home, and she cared for him with milk and biscuits and warm blankets. She named the dog Ruff because of his funny bark. And as his health improved, the lass and the dog became best friends.
The other dogs didn’t look kindly on Ruff, though. They thought him weak, and they all snarled after him. His brothers and sisters were the worst. Whenever Ruff tried to play in the fields, they pushed him around, bit his tail and scratched his coat. “Yer not fit ter be a sheep dog”, they growled. “These fields are ours. Now get off so us real dogs can have room ter play”.
Ruff ran whimpering back to his owner. She comforted the pup, bandaged his wounds and hugged his pains away, but she sent him out into the fields again. “Yer have to be strong, Ruff”, she said. “Don’t let them mean dogs treat yer like yer don’t belong. Jest remember, while they seem fairer and stronger than you, them are spoiled and soft. And yer are much smarter than them, never doubt that”.
So Ruff headed back to the fields and started playing again. His brothers and sisters soon noticed him. They ran over, barked and growled and tried to scare him off. Ruff eyed them as they approached, legs shivering… but he stood firm. As the angry dogs got nearer, he held his head high and let out a loud “RUFF!” that echoed over the fields.
The other dogs startled and jumped near three feet into the air. Upon landing, they whined and looked around. Whatever could have made such a loud noise? Finally, the strongest of them collected himself and stepped forward. He eyed Ruff with scorn and laughed. “Ooh, the sickly feller wants to play, eh?”, he said. “Well, come then, ‘brother’. Fight me and show me yer worth”
The two dogs faced each other as the sun beat down on them. “This will be no match at all”, the other dogs grinned as they passed around dog biscuits and sat down to watch the fight. Ruff weren’t even half the size of his brother. While his brother stood arrogant and strong, with a shiny, soft coat, Ruff looked frail in his scratched fur.
The audience howled with glee as the strong brother feinted and tried to scare Ruff off. But Ruff kept calm, eyes fixed straight ahead.
Annoyed, his brother lunged forward with a terrifying roar. Jaws wide open, he moved in for the kill. This was surely it! That bite would crush Ruff’s scrawny neck.
At the last second, Ruff neatly sidestepped the attacking dog. A disappointed howl rose from his brother’s throat, one that soon gave way to a short yelp of fear, as he smashed headfirst into a small rock that had been hidden behind Ruff’s frame.
The brother fell to the ground, crying and whimpering. The others couldn’t believe their eyes. Cheeks stuffed with half-eaten biscuits, they watched each other nervously. How could this have happened?
Ruff stepped forward, watched them calmly. Once again the bark thundered over the fields, “RUFF!”
The other dogs’ courage vanished instantly, like drops of dew for the morning sun. They ran off yelping, and none of them ever bothered Ruff again.
As time passed, Ruff grew up to be the most renowned sheep dog in all of Brockenborings. There is many a tale worthy of legend told about him. And he never left the side of his owner, at least not until…ah, well, that’s a tale to be told another day.
Oh, and remember. They even wrote songs about Ruff!
Picture copyright: Throttler at en.wikipedia. Original version at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Collie_Puppy_2010.JPG